Hobbit conference missing Peter Jackson

FROM OFFICE TO FOREST: Martin Freeman will play Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, and Peter Jackson says it is a role he was born to play.
FROM OFFICE TO FOREST: Martin Freeman will play Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, and Peter Jackson says it is a role he was born to play.
GOOD COMPANY: Being Human's Aidan Turner will play Kili, a member of the Company of Dwarves, in The Hobbit.
GOOD COMPANY: Being Human's Aidan Turner will play Kili, a member of the Company of Dwarves, in The Hobbit.
SHORT STUFF: TV star Graham McTavish will play dwarf Dwalin in The Hobbit.
SHORT STUFF: TV star Graham McTavish will play dwarf Dwalin in The Hobbit.
NO STRIPPING PLEASE: The Strip star Peter Hambleton will play a dwarf called Gloin in The Hobbit.
NO STRIPPING PLEASE: The Strip star Peter Hambleton will play a dwarf called Gloin in The Hobbit.
BIG PRAISE: Richard Armitage will play Thorin Oakensheild in The Hobbit and Peter Jackson says he is one of the most exciting actors on screen today.
BIG PRAISE: Richard Armitage will play Thorin Oakensheild in The Hobbit and Peter Jackson says he is one of the most exciting actors on screen today.

Sir Peter Jackson missed today's Wellington launch featuring the stars of The Hobbit as he is under the health version of "house arrest''.

Jackson said via a statement handed out at the press conference in Wellington that he "regretted'' not being able to attend.

The director was hospitalised last month with a perforated ulcer. He was discharged last week but has been resting at home.

The press conference included British actor Martin Freeman, who has the pivotal role of hobbit Bilbo Baggins, in the US$500 million two-part Lord of the Rings prequel.

He was also joined by Irish actor James Nesbitt (best known for his television roles, including the series Cold Feet), Spooks star Richard Armitage and New Zealand actors include William Kircher, Peter Hambleton, John Callen, Jed Brophy and Mark Hadlow. They all have roles as dwarves in the films.

Freeman said being cast as Bilbo Baggins was the role of a lifetime.

SAY IT LOUD AND PROUD: Hobbit rally organiser Mark Harrison speaks at QE2 Square in Auckland.
SAY IT LOUD AND PROUD: Hobbit rally organiser Mark Harrison speaks at QE2 Square in Auckland.
WHERE'S THE PRECIOUS? Meg Robinson and sister Kate Robinson enjoy the rally to support The Hobbit in Auckland.
WHERE'S THE PRECIOUS? Meg Robinson and sister Kate Robinson enjoy the rally to support The Hobbit in Auckland.
LAST WORD: Fans show their support for The Hobbit in Auckland.
LAST WORD: Fans show their support for The Hobbit in Auckland.
IN CHARACTER: Ruevin Blaxall dressed up as a hobbit character in support of retaining the production of the hobbit movies
IN CHARACTER: Ruevin Blaxall dressed up as a hobbit character in support of retaining the production of the hobbit movies
FOUR HORSEMEN: Fans show their support for The Hobbit in Auckland.
FOUR HORSEMEN: Fans show their support for The Hobbit in Auckland.
PATIENTLY WAITING: Sir Richard Taylor sits in the crowd in Civic Square in Wellington during a rally to support The Hobbit being filmed in New Zealand.
PATIENTLY WAITING: Sir Richard Taylor sits in the crowd in Civic Square in Wellington during a rally to support The Hobbit being filmed in New Zealand.
SIGN LANGUAGE: Brodan Stephens protests in Queenstown to keep the production of The Hobbit in New Zealand.
SIGN LANGUAGE: Brodan Stephens protests in Queenstown to keep the production of The Hobbit in New Zealand.
FILM FANS: Marchers gather ahead of Auckland's pro-Hobbit rally in QEII square at the bottom of Queen Street..
FILM FANS: Marchers gather ahead of Auckland's pro-Hobbit rally in QEII square at the bottom of Queen Street..
A small group turned out in Hamilton, organised by film buff Paul Barlow.
A small group turned out in Hamilton, organised by film buff Paul Barlow.

"I'm extremely chuffed.''

Freeman said he had sent in an audition tape for Bilbo, but was concerned he couldn't schedule it around his television show Sherlock Holmes.

He and his troupe of dwarves had been in Wellington for about four weeks.

DWARVES AND HOBBITS: Some of the stars of The Hobbit pose for a photo.
DWARVES AND HOBBITS: Some of the stars of The Hobbit pose for a photo.

Nesbitt said he had brought his family and being here was "fantastic''. He had even attended the sevens last weekend dressed as a chicken.

Hadlow and Brophy said working with overseas stars was great, with Brophy describing them as "really good blokes''.

Filming of The Hobbit will begin on March 21 at Stone Street Studios in Miramar and with location shooting around New Zealand including the rebuilt Hobbiton in Matamata.

KITTED OUT: Hobbit star James Nesbitt attended the Wellington sevens and was recognised by visiting Brit Sophie Bennett.
KITTED OUT: Hobbit star James Nesbitt attended the Wellington sevens and was recognised by visiting Brit Sophie Bennett.

CONFERENCE RUNDOWN


10:45am: The press conference has wrapped for photos.

10.43am: Freeman says it is the role of a lifetime. "I'm extremely chuffed"

Nesbitt says they have a smile on their faces all day.

10.38am: Richard Armitage says he played an elf in a stage production of The Hobbit when he was a child and Gollum was a paper mâché puppet. Says the 3D aspect is like working on Avatar.

Freeman says Jackson is "phenomenally, genuinely normal". Met him a few times over the years. "there are no tossers (in this film) including the top".

10.33am: Fellow Kiwi, Jed Brophy, supports Hadlow, describing overseas actors as "really good blokes".

10.32am: Kiwi actor Mark Hadlow said he was impressed by the overseas actors.

10.31am: James Nesbitt has brought his family. "It's fantastic," he says of Wellington.

10.26am: Martin Freeman said he sent in an audition tape for Bilbo, but was concerned that he couldn't shedule it around his television show Sherlock Holmes. Freeman and the dwarves have been in Wellington for about four weeks.

The dwarf band of brothers have been asked if they expect to become heartthrobs.

James Nesbitt revealed that he attended the Sevens dressed as a chicken. "It felt right." he said.

10.19am: A written statement from Jackson said he regretted not being able to attend but was effectively under a health version of "house arrest".

10.18am: Spooks star Richard Armitage, who plays one of the dwarves, is seated to Freeman's left.

10.15am: The stars, including British actor Martin Freeman and Irishman James Nesbitt, have taken their seats at a long table at Park Road Post in Miramar, Wellington. Freeman, who will play Bilbo Baggins, is seated right in the middle.

The Dominion Post